Chap! to make it official
A little birdie has told me that Chap! Petersen has decided to run for the 34th district State Senate seat, which is currently held by Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis. Petersen has been semi-publicly considering making the race over the last few months and has now decided to go for it. No word yet on when an official/public announcement would be coming, but I would guess we'll see something later this summer.
The 34th is an embarrassment of riches for Democrats, with Delegates Steve Shannon and David Bulova representing a majority of the voters in the House. Shannon was rumored to be interested in the Senate seat, but will likely focus instead on re-election in 2007 and a possible run for Attorney General in 2009 (personally, I think he'd make a great candidate based on his personal charisma and bona fides as a former prosecutor).
This seat is among the NoVa Trifecta (Cuccinelli and O'Brien included) that Senate Democrats believe are ripe for the taking. Greg Galligan will be seeking a rematch with O'Brien in the 39th, a district based around Lorton and Clifton in Fairfax county and Occoquan and Dale City in Prince William County.
The best news is that based on the district and the candidates, I would expect that Petersen starts off as a slight favorite.
In 2003, Democrat Ron Christian got 47% of the vote. In the same year, Petersen, running for re-election in a rematch against former Del. J. Rust, got 59.5% of the vote. Among the precincts they shared (almost all of Petersen’s Delegate district) Chap! got 60.5% of the vote, while Christian got 49.7%. If Chap! runs near 10% better than Ron Christian did among Chap!'s old district (which is 32% of the Senate district) and keeps Christian's percentages elsewhere, he'll win with 51%.
In 2001, Mark Warner got 54% of the vote in this district. In 2005, Time Kaine got 59%. In no precinct did Kaine get a lower percentage than Warner did. If Democrats improve by 5% over their vote four years ago, as they did between 2001 and 2005, Chap! will end up around 52%.
In 2003, Ron Christian was outspent by Devolites-Davis $280,000 to $260,000. While a small difference, this gap mirrored the final vote gap, providing a close loss for the Democrat. In that same year, Petersen not only out raised Rust ($285,000 to $208,000), he out raised Christian and Devolites-Davis. Chap! raised more money for his Delegate race than either Senate candidate raised that year. Of course, Chap! followed that up by raising just over $900,000 for his Lt. Governor campaign.
Finally, on the personal level, Petersen is known as a tireless campaigner. In his 2001 upset, he gained a reputation for knocking on more doors than other politicians thought possible, and by the end of the election, he had personally talked to enough voters to gain their confidence and votes despite being outspent $282,000 to $172,000.
On the other hand, Devolites-Davis is increasingly becoming the target of choice for hard-core anti-tax conservatives. She's stuck between her "do nothing" base and the fervent desire of swing voters to have an efficient, fair transportation solution. The upcoming special session on transportation will put her in an amazingly difficult position, especially as Cuccinelli and O'Brien are likely to stick with their base and risk their career by keeping their head in the sand.
By January of 2008, the only place to see a Northern Virginia Republican (among the State Delegation) will be Vince Callahan in McLean and the state government history books.